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Christmas In Anatevka

Christmas In Anatevka

Last week it was the soundtrack from “Tangled,” Disney’s take on the Rapunzel fairy tale.

This week I cannot get “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “If I Were a Rich Man” out of my head. In no small part because my kids have insisted on playing “Fiddler on the Roof” and its music on a near endless loop since Saturday.

“Fiddler,” which I hadn’t seen since I was about the same age as my daughter Ellie (7), was part of our Ultimate Jewish Christmas: Friday night dinner with my 90-year-old Jewish grandmother, a morning of lounging around in pajamas, Chinese food in downtown Flushing with my sister, brother-in-law and nieces, and finally, three hours in Anatevka.

Oh sure, observance of the Sabbath would have been the truly ultimate Jewish Christmas, but let’s not get carried away. (In case you’re wondering, Friday night dinner with my ardently atheist grandma was not exactly candlelighting, Kiddush and Hamotzi: instead, we headed to the Italian restaurant around the corner from her house.)

In any event, “Fiddler” was a huge hit in our house, even if 4-year-old Sophie got antsy by the final hour, understandable since a) it’s a long movie and b) the story turns rather dark once the torch-bearing, horse-mounted Cossacks and that constable who looks like Josef Stalin crash Tzeitel and Motel’s wedding.

Not surprisingly, the marriage of Chava to a Christian man, and Tevye’s handling of the news (“She is dead to us now,”) provoked much discussion.
What was surprising, however, was that Ellie sided more with Tevye than Chava: while we were watching the movie, she burst out with “How could she do something like that?! Why did she have to marry a Christian?!”

“Hello?” I laughed. “That’s what I did! It’s not like your dad is Jewish!” (He couldn’t speak for himself, because he was in New Hampshire, visiting his late mother’s boyfriend Frank, who is sick, elderly and not Jewish.)

“But that’s different, Mom,” Ellie said. “The Jews and Christians were fighting then.”

True, in the scene when Chava first met Fyedka, I’d explained to the girls that back then, intermarriage was a much bigger deal than it is today, and that, in part because of anti-Semitism and in part because of “Tradition,” Jews who intermarried often had to convert to Christianity (like, presumably Chava does before the Russian Orthodox priest officiates at her wedding) or not be accepted in any community.

Still it was a little funny to hear my product-of-intermarriage daughter condemning Chava for falling in love with a gentile!

Is this the little girl I carried? (Cue music to “Sunrise, Sunset.”)

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